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Why Most Manga Books Are Small and Black-and-White

August 29, 2006 | | Comments 31 |

…and why our book will be large and in full color.

In the comment section to Yaoi Art: “A Shot in the Dark” Pencils, I was asked why I was choosing to publish the first Yaoi 911™ book in color — an unusual choice for a manga book. In responding to that, I also commented on reasons why the vast majority of manga books here in the U.S. are not published in color, despite our culture’s current embrace of full-color comics. And I gave some reasons why these books are consistently published in a small “digest-size” format (typically around 5″ x 7.5″) as well.

Even though it’s just a comment, I thought that readers might find these topics interesting, thus I decided to pull it out into its own post. So, if you’re curious about why manga is printed the way it is here or why I’m bucking this tradition by creating full color yaoi, read on!

Bowing Towards Japan

The short answer to the question of “why small and black-and-white?” is, of course, the fact that most manga printed in the U.S. is licensed from Japan and the publishers here are merely being true to the original material — material that contains almost exclusively black-and-white art (which Japanese readers are very comfortable with) and that is often collected in digest-size tankoban.

Now, of course, there are straight-forward logistical reasons for publishers not making changes to this format — if the books were never colored there, then you’d have to hire an artist to do it here, a considerable expense of time and money (not to mention a bit Ted Turneresque…). But also very important is the desire to honor the Japanese author’s creative choices, something that has become very important in an increasingly savvy U.S. manga market.

A good example of how these factors play out is the fact that most Western manga publishers now print their licensed books in the Japanese-style right-to-left reading format, even though it requires a learning curve on the part of many Western readers to have to read manga that way. Why do they make this choice? Out of respect for the original art (so it doesn’t looked “flopped“), deference to the fans of that art (who want to experience the creator’s original vision), in response to contractual requirements of certain mangakas and, frankly, because it’s just faster and cheaper.

Obviously, changing the aspect ratio of a book to a more traditional American graphic novel size or coloring the pages would be an even bigger alteration of the original work and thus would also have to be avoided for the same reasons — despite the fact that it could very well make the books more accessible for a Western audience. (I still know people who won’t read black-and-white comics of any stripe…)

For licensed manga, however, the market has spoken — the books sell. Why take on additional expense and effort if you don’t have to?

But What About Original English-Language Manga?

So, those are good reasons why publishers wouldn’t want to make changes to licensed manga — and thus why most manga here is formatted the way it is. But many American publishers also choose to stick to the smaller, black-and-white format even for their own original, English-language works — a choice which seems to fly in the face of the traditional comics market here in the U.S.

Now, there has to be more behind this than a desire to imitate the Japanese works. The vast majority of these publishers are smart enough not to slavishly follow the right-to-left tradition for OEL manga. Most are willing to innovate in terms of story and art to appeal to more Western tastes. So, why would they almost universally choose the Japanese format for size and color? Why are so few willing to break out of that box?

In order to offer some good reasons for that (and tell you a little more about what my plans are for the Yaoi 911™ books), I will now post some excerpts from my original response as to why I am choosing (perhaps foolishly) to buck the small and monochromatic manga tradition. (I’ve altered the order of the text a bit to facilitate our discussion here — let’s call this the “remix version.”)

Comment by Alex Woolfson

…There are good reasons why almost all manga [including OEL manga] is a particular size. One is, of course, tradition. But that tradition has created certain expectations that have shaped the manga market. For one thing, having one size for a particular genre of book makes it easy for bookstores to stock your book on their shelves — and you want to make it easy for bookstores to stock your book. For another, consumers get used to a particular size and have probably adapted their reading habits to that size — you can stick one of those small manga books in your purse, for example, good luck doing that with an 8.5″ x 11″ book — and confounding consumer expectations can be dangerous. (It can also pay off, they might really like it, but it’s risky…) Finally, there’s the fact that smaller books are cheaper to publish — they use less paper, they cost less to ship — and in running a business, cheaper helps you live to publish another day.

There are good reasons why almost all manga is black and white. One is, of course, tradition. But the main reason is that it’s tremendously more expensive to make a book in color. Like over four times as much. There’s the expense of paying an artist to color your book, of course — not trivial. But particularly, it’s the printing costs that add up fast. Paper for a black-and-white book runs through the press once to get that black ink — paper for a color book runs through 4 times to get each color for the CMYK inks. You get charged for that, and the extra ink, and the extra set-up costs — as you can imagine, it adds up fast. So, you need extra cash up front, which isn’t easy for a small publisher. To control your expenses, a color book nearly always needs to be printed overseas, which is complicated and scary. And you need to charge more for the book, which is risky in a market where consumers are used to paying less, perhaps much less for a manga book.

Is it any wonder why pretty much every yaoi book is black-and-white and pocket-size? Really, so long as people are willing to buy them, it’s the “smart” choice. And in a risky business like publishing, you really want to make smart choices.

So those are some solid, practical reasons to follow the herd. Yet the Yaoi 911™ books are going to be different — here’s my reasoning why:

…[Now,) there are things I am doing as a publisher that are hopefully “smart” choices — getting the word out with this blog, hiring a pro for my cover design, having realistic expectations for sales in a niche market, etc…

And then there are the things I am doing just because I want to create the yaoi book I’ve always wanted to read.

One thing I’m doing is creating a large format book — 8.5″ x 11″ — on high-quality coated paper. Why? I like my art big. In particular, I like my art of the cute boys kissing big. A lot of energy is being put into creating (IMHO) really beautiful, detailed art — I don’t want people to have to squint to be able to appreciate it. I want my readers to be able to curl up in their beds and really be able to feast their eyes on the sweet guy-on-guy action.

And another thing I’m doing is creating a full-color book. Sure, I can enjoy a book with nice crisp, black-and-white line art, but the truth is, the one thing I always find I miss in these yaoi books is color. I love color. I love color in art. It makes a big difference both in my ability to follow a story and enjoy that story. And if the cute boys are going to kiss, I want them making-out in full, glorious COLOR.

Publishing-wise, these are not “smart” choices…

So why am I doing this?

Well, if there’s anything I’ve learned from filmmaking, it’s that if you want to make great art, you have to make art that you, the creator, think is great. Yes, you keep your audience in mind — and when you are marketing the piece that’s the only thing you keep in mind — but if your main goal is to create a work you think will please others, you are sunk.

Artists aren’t psychics and trying to guess what some unknown “audience” will really love is a recipe for mediocrity. The only person’s taste you can really, truly know is your own — so you make the work you love, the book that would be your heart’s desire if you saw it in a book store.

I am writing stories I’ve wanted to see my whole life. I am choosing to work with artists whose art rocks my world. And the book I’m going to publish is going to be big and it’s going to printed CMYK, because I’m dying to see the boys kissing in full, glorious COLOR.

Not “smart” choices. But I don’t think I’m the only one who’d like to have a nice, big, well-written full-color yaoi book — so hopefully, in the end, it will turn out to be the right choice.

But even if it’s not, I will have made the book I wanted to make — and that’s ultimately what’s important to me. Creating this book is a realization of a dream. And I choose not to follow my dream by half-measures.

What Do You Think, Gentle Reader?

So there you have it — reasons why a publisher should stick with the traditional Japanese format and my reasons for breaking with that tradition. Will it be the “right” choice or will I be remembered as the Don Quixote of yaoi publishing?

I hope you found this discussion interesting and useful (and I encourage you to click through some of those links above to find out more), but the original intention of this post was to inspire discussion, so I’d really like to know… what do you think? Do you think there is room for different formats of manga (at potentially higher prices) or should the traditional format just be left well enough alone?


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Filed Under: PublishingYaoi 911Yaoi in General

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About the Author: Filmmaker by day, yaoi creator by night, Alex has dedicated himself to helping cute guys fight evil and find love.

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  1. jen says:

    It's worth noting that in weekly or monthly anthology format, while the manga is still printed in black and white (or rather, using black ink on paper of various colors), the size of the pages is considerably larger– I believe 8.5×11". (I'm at work and don't have a copy to check with, though.)

    So if western printers wanted to print things bigger, the art is readily available– and DMP does print things bigger, albeit not full-size.

    Your other reasons, of course, still stand. But if people want bigger versions of the art for whatever reason, they can usually get it via the weeklies and monthlies.

  2. You bring up some good points, and as Tina pointed out in response to my original comment, a manga book that is currently out that is very close to the format I'd like to publish is, in fact, DMP's Robot.

    Even though that book isn't as story-focused as <span style="white-space:nowrap">Yaoi 911™</span> will be, I'd really like to know how it's been doing in the marketplace — has it been selling well? There are multiple volumes, so I'd hope so, but I'm curious.

    Just like I'm also curious how much interest there is in larger format, full-color books. As you say, if people really wanted larger books, publishers could choose to print from the original serial size. Is there not enough interest in larger books or is it just not worth the expense to print them? How about you, personally — does a larger book have any appeal? How about full color yaoi?

    And you also suggest people could already get the bigger versions of their favorite manga stories through weekly and monthlies if they wanted them. Besides Shonen Jump, are there other translated phonebook size books that are published here? Do we know whether DQ's Rush will be published phonebook size? And do you think that the larger size adds to the appeal?

  3. jen says:

    Robot sells very well– I suspect it's their best selling non-BL-related product.

    But it's also more like an artbook than a real manga, and artbooks are more commonly seen in those larger formats.

    Honestly, if I were you– you're a man creating a yaoi manga, the art is very western-looking compared to most manga, AND you're going for a large format? I'd be a little worried that someone not in the know– like someone who came across it on a shelf at a comic book store –would look at it and not associate it with yaoi at all. Which doesn't mean they wouldn't buy it, of course, and it may draw in more interest than if it was more manga-style, I dunno.

    The size would probably neither convince me to or deter me from buy(ing) it. Ditto for color, but I might be odd that way…I know some people go nuts for color.

    I dunno, maybe I'm overly cautious. If it were me, for my first manga I'd probably go for the standard format and see how well it did– in your shoes, I'd have two major "uncontrolled variables," so to speak, being a man creating yaoi in the west.

    If my work did well, then I'd be more open to experimenting with other variables like format. But again, maybe I'm just overcautious?

    I'm trying hard not to be deterring you or anything, but I do want to give you my honest opinion, so I hope you won't think I'm just nay-saying or anything ^^;

  4. I’m trying hard not to be deterring you or anything, but I do want to give you my honest opinion, so I hope you won’t think I’m just nay-saying or anything ^^;

    Oh, no worries. ^^ As you can tell from my post, I know what I'm doing is risky. While I hope that being a man creating yaoi won't be a deal-breaker for anyone (after all, it's my understanding that other men create yaoi — although I have yet to find any names, perhaps someone could help me out with that?), when starting a new business, it's rarely a great idea to reinvent the wheel. Yep, it's risky.

    And while there's going to be a number of different styles of art in the book, you're right — some of is going to be more western-looking. "YAOI" will be in big letters in the title, but will a different look to the art in some stories still be a deal-breaker for the yaoi fans here? I hope not, but that's another risk.

    And now I am telling you I'm looking to take on the additional expense of a larger, full-color format. No wonder you might be thinking it's time for an "intervention."

    Well, as I said, I'm looking to create the yaoi book I've always wanted to read. I've given some reasons for that, but there's also this — whether you make a film or publish a book, the odds are strongly against you that the work will sell at all, so I've learned that you better be darn happy with your own product, for you could very well be the only person who appreciates it. I know I'll be happy with a large, full-color yaoi book of these stories.

    It's my hope that the risks I'm taking will pay off — or at the very least not hurt me. This certainly isn't a vanity project. But while I'd like to have financial success with this book, as with any creative endeavor, I'm also prepared to lose money on this. I think you have to be.

    But you're giving me good information, Jen. I'll be curious to hear what other people think as well. :-)

  5. jen says:

    You're absolutely right on all counts. I admit I'm coming to it largely from a marketing perspective instead an artist/writer's (damn my day job anyhow).

    You already know I wish you the best and hope it turns out well! And that I'll buy it either way. ;)

  6. Well, Jen, "artist/writer" that I am, I definitely do appreciate you offering me some good marketing perspective — I would like to be able to sell a few of these books! — and any advice or input you can offer is certainly most welcome. ;-)

  7. Brigid says:

    One thing that really bugs me about American publishers is that they usually convert the color pages at the beginning of a volume to black and white, and it looks terrible. Planetes and the Boogiepop books are exceptions to this.

    If you go with four-color in a larger format, will you include the same number of pages that traditional manga have now? If you go with a slim volume, readers may feel they are trading story for color, and they may not think it's a good tradeoff. And have you looked at printers? Back when I was editing illustrated books, all our printing was done by Toppan in Japan. It would be sort of ironic to have your American yaoi printed over there!

    I'm not a yaoi fan, so I can't speak to what is or is not a "deal breaker." As a manga reader, I tend to go for story first and quality a close second. I'm usually willing to gamble 10 bucks if the story looks good. More than that can be problematic.

    I don't mean to discourage you, though. Manga has gotten to where it is today because of people who are willing to experiment and perhaps create something new. It's your book and if you really feel it should be in color, do it that way. Otherwise, for the rest of your life, every time you look at it you'll think "If only…"

  8. One thing that really bugs me about American publishers is that they usually convert the color pages at the beginning of a volume to black and white, and it looks terrible.

    Yeah, it does seem tough to do that well. I can speculate about the reasoning for it — because pages are actually run through the press in signatures, it's not like "only a couple" of pages would have to be set up for color — but I often find myself wincing as well.

    If you go with four-color in a larger format, will you include the same number of pages that traditional manga have now?

    I think it should be comparable — there will be five stories, 150 to 180 pages. Compared to the yaoi books I am reading now, I don't think readers will feel that I had to trade-off length for color.

    And have you looked at printers? Back when I was editing illustrated books, all our printing was done by Toppan in Japan. It would be sort of ironic to have your American yaoi printed over there!

    I'm keeping my eye out and getting quotes, but I'm always open to good recommendations!

    Interesting to hear that you once edited illustrated books. I can see some continuity with that and your interest in manga now.

    I’m usually willing to gamble 10 bucks if the story looks good. More than that can be problematic.

    I hear you. And it will almost certainly go for over ten dollars. Even if it were black and white, it would be tough to make 10 bucks work for the short print runs that a small publisher needs to put out. (Even Drama Queen charges $12.50 for their black-and-white books and I imagine they currently have larger print runs than I will — at least at first.) Ten bucks retail price means just four bucks a book for the publisher after distributor discounts are applied. You'd need a pretty low cost per book in order to get any kind of profit.

    Of course, the more you print, the cheaper it is per copy, but the truth is, the vast majority of books published in the U.S. never sell more than 5000 copies — so unless my pre-orders are huge, it would be very dangerous to print much more than that right out the gate.

    It’s your book and if you really feel it should be in color, do it that way. Otherwise, for the rest of your life, every time you look at it you’ll think “If only…”

    Well, that sort of sums up where I'm at with this. I still would like to hear people's input — and I am really looking forward to creating a color yaoi book. Hopefully, enough people will want to buy it so I get to keep making them. :-)

    Thank you for your good questions,

    Alex

  9. gynocrat says:

    And then there are the things I am doing just because I want to create the yaoi book I’ve always wanted to read.

    There you go. When my circle first hit the OEL/BL scene everyone was making staple books from kinkos. I said no, I decided to perfect bind and print offset. According to Liz Cheng [Pluto] from Umbrella Studios, in her interview with the now defunct ELD Magazine, our decision to print offset and perfect bind 'raised the bar' for English Language doujinshi makers, and so when our fans supported us for it, other circles followed suit. So be a trend setter. Produce what you want to see, rather than what's the norm, and see if you alter the narrow visions of BL manga fans that cling to monochrome.

    As for BL in color, it’s been done. But in the realms of ‘fandom doujinshi’ with ‘utterly beautiful’ art. Yes, I’m talking Yuubinaysa. She makes a ‘living’ as a Final Fantasy doujinshika who produces a large number of magazine size color only BL ani-paro doujinshi. So there are fans who like it…only if it’s something can ‘treasure’ rather than read and enjoy. 0_0.

    I personally love my monochrome manga. That’s just me, I’ve never been a fan of ‘color manga’, even though I recommended ‘Robot’, I did so because I appreciate the chance Murata et al. are taking in pushing the series and it’s medium, so hard in Japan.

    Do we know whether DQ’s Rush will be published phonebook size? And do you think that the larger size adds to the appeal?

    I’ve always thought that the reason for the small size of manga relates to those who read it; the commuting fans. Readers on the move still want to be reading, even when a stationary moment becomes available. Manga is compact and makes this easy. As for Rush, no it won’t be phonebook size, and I will tell you why: First off, it will be the size of BeBoy LUV or Zips because-BL manga is an escape. Enjoying BL is like Your Own Private Idaho, small and compact is easier to lug around and is more personal in terms of transporting and enjoying without garnishing questions. Just like a paper-back novel, it’s all about convenience. If you can pack it away in your book bag or purse or over-arm, and whip it out when you’re on the train or at the bus stop, then how convenient is it? It’s more personal and practical and so RUSH will be the size of the average manga from DMP’s June.

  10. As for BL in color, it’s been done. But in the realms of ‘fandom doujinshi’ with ‘utterly beautiful’ art. Yes, I’m talking Yuubinaysa. She makes a ‘living’ as a Final Fantasy doujinshika who produces a large number of magazine size color only BL ani-paro doujinshi. So there are fans who like it…only if it’s something can ‘treasure’ rather than read and enjoy. 0_0.

    I guess I do like the idea of a BL "treasure" as opposed to a "commuter book" — but perhaps that has something to do with my own reading habits. I tend to like to kick back at home and really focus on enjoying a book as opposed to having one with me to pass the time when I'm on the go.

    Interesting to hear about Yuubinaysa — and good to hear that I'm not the only fan who finds that appealing. I guess I'll have to check out her work, perhaps at YaoiCon.

    RUSH will be the size of the average manga from DMP’s June.

    Thanks for the good information on this and the reasoning behind it. It sounds like the right choice for this audience — and again, the smaller size means you save money on paper and shipping.

    So be a trend setter. Produce what you want to see, rather than what’s the norm, and see if you alter the narrow visions of BL manga fans that cling to monochrome.

    And also thank you for the inspirational story. :-) Yep, that's what I hope to see happen — that this book will offer something different and that readers will actually enjoy the difference. That the fans will support it.

    Maybe I'll get my nose bloodied and this will be the only time I create a book this way. If marketing realities inform me that consumers would prefer less expensive, monochrome, "commuter size" books, then I will take that as good information and create books in the traditional format.

    Perhaps an expensive lesson (although I will certainly do my best to control my costs) but again, at least I will have created the book I wanted to make this time, and as Brigid said, won't have to say "If only…"

  11. gynocrat says:

    There was an article in the Aesthe fanzine years ago, and luckily it's still on line:
    http://www.aestheticism.com/visitors/editor/jeann

    Check it out, Jeane shares your views on the large-is-lovely thing. ^_^

  12. jen says:

    Alex, you'll be at YaoiCon? I'll have to be sure to try and spot you! ;)

  13. Tina,

    That's a great link — thank you! (I especially enjoyed her discussions of the pleasures and pains of loving the work of a ijiwarui (mean) mangaka.) I've read that Elin Winkler of Radio Comix is also a proponent of larger formats for romantic and erotic comics. I think you've done some work for her, too, right?

    Jen,

    Absolutely! And because SF is my town, I can show you and Jordan some tasty restaurants if you're game. Do you like sushi?

  14. jen says:

    Alex, Jordan won't be in town with me. And actually, I grew up in the Bay Area, so I'm familiar with SF…although I grew up in South Bay, so probably not as familiar as an actual denizen. ;)

    But I'd love to go out for sushi sometime. My heterolifemate since childhood goes to the Academy of Art University, so I may drag her along too, depending on how time works out. (She can't attend the con, alas.)

  15. Sounds great, Jen.

    Also, I really enjoyed your review of Challengers – very funny, actually! — and have linked to it at the end of my review so others can enjoy it, too.

  16. jen says:

    I appreciate that! Glad you liked ^_^

  17. gynocrat says:

    I’ve read that Elin Winkler of Radio Comix is also a proponent of larger formats for romantic and erotic comics. I think you’ve done some work for her, too, right?

    Yeah she does, and yes I do. ^^ I have a BL series running in Dangerous called Lost Angles [drawn by a MALE mangaka...see, I'm not so bad!!] and she favors the larger size over the bunko. Though when it comes imprint time for individual titles, I think Radio Comix produces the standard manga size. 0_0? I might be wrong. Dangerous currently runs at about a 7×10 size.

    -Tina

  18. Dangerous currently runs at about a 7×10 size.

    The standard U.S. comic book size (give or take a few fractions…) — which all the Radio Comix books I've gotten so far use. I'm not sure if their other books come in digest-size, though…

  19. Jordanmarks says:

    I want to create the yaoi book I’ve always wanted to read.

    Well, that is certainly the best reason for doing a project like this and being picky about how it's done.

    I’ve always thought that the reason for the small size of manga relates to those who read it; the commuting fans.

    Personally, I don't read BL in public. I know people who do though. On a certain flight, the poor person seated next to Jen had a very shocked expression :)

    Anyway, I prefer to read BL at home. I like the idea of a alrger format.

  20. Personally, I don’t read BL in public. I know people who do though. On a certain flight, the poor person seated next to Jen had a very shocked expression :)

    It's funny to hear this story because just recently a very good, straight-boy friend of mine was reading the script for "A Shot in the Dark" on his commuter train and just as he was getting to the hologram sex scenes, became very aware of the accidental audience member sitting next to him. A little walk on the wild side for my pal… ;-)

    Anyway, I prefer to read BL at home. I like the idea of a alrger format.

    Yay! Glad to hear that I'm not the only one! Who knows, maybe we can start a Yahoo group or something… ;-)

    Thanks very much for the encouragement and the input, Jordan.

  21. jen says:

    Ohhh yeah, I remember that! I think I was reading "Empty Heart." Good stuff.

  22. Alex (or anyone),

    I'm curious of your thoughts on this. I'm working on my own yaoi graphic novel and was going to have it published as the standard Japanese yaoi titles are, in the smaller size and reading right to left. I was also going to work under a pen name that didn't immediately give away that this was a Western produced novel. My concern is that if I didn't, it would limit my audience because people may not give it a change if they know it is not from Japan. Am I being overly paranoid? I find I look at Western yaoi differently myself but usually only because the look and feel is different from what I am used to anyway and enjoy. Anyone can chime in on this. I would like to hear what other yaoi fans have to say regarding Western produced yaoi. Thanks!

  23. gynocrat says:

    I’m working on my own yaoi graphic novel and was going to have it published as the standard Japanese yaoi titles are

    Are you publishing it yourself? If so, then you do what you want– but remember, finding the right printer to handle it that way might be tough.

    I was also going to work under a pen name that didn’t immediately give away that this was a Western produced novel. My concern is that if I didn’t, it would limit my audience because people may not give it a change if they know it is not from Japan.

    I don't think you're being paranoid, but I think you're being willfully misleading, and that's not going to sit well with fans. Yayoi Neko published this way at a time where this sort of thing didn't matter [I don't people realize just how long she's been doing this ^_-] but from the start, she's made appearances at yaoicon and goes by the name Thundertori at Deviant. Fans know she's not a Japanese mangaka despite her pen name and Incubus being published in the Japanese standard. These days, I've seen critics and fans alike actively denounce creators they think are 'posing' or 'misrepresenting' themselves. Tread lightly.

    I find I look at Western yaoi differently myself but usually only because the look and feel is different from what I am used to anyway and enjoy.

    I don call my work 'western yaoi', I've settled on GloBL. If you want your work produced, and promoted as Japanese Yaoi, then I strongly suggest you submit to a Japanese publisher. :)

    I would like to hear what other yaoi fans have to say regarding Western produced yaoi.

    Do you want 'other fans' thought on GloBL, or do you want 'Japanese Yaoi fans' thoughts on GloBL? There's a big difference. Many fans of the Japanese genre will never like GloBL for many reasons–it's not what they're used to enjoying, whereas many fans of GloBL like it because– it's different from the Japanese standard.

    I would try asking this question at places where fans of the Japanese genre hang out–since you're trying to make a story that will appeal to them, that's likely where you should seek feedback. :)

  24. Thanks for your input. I'm looking for feedback from all areas… I don't like to limit myself. As far as my pen name, I wanted it to be more like a one word name, not necessarily Asian, like the author you referenced but not "Suzi Jones" either. Something that doesn't put a set image into someone's head about whether this is a man or woman, Asian or Caucasian. There is a Spanish male author that had a great one word name (can't think of it, of course) but that's what got me thinking about it. I wouldn't have known he was Spanish or a man without looking into who he was.

  25. artdjmaster says:

    @Alex, I think you should go ahead and publish Yaoi Firsts any way you want it. If you publish it in the large format, you should absolutely include those sexy, full-colour pinups! *drool*

    On the other hand, you might be paying a pretty penny for those large, colour pages. I've always thought, that in a black-and-white manga, the few colour pages actually become more special because their appeal is heightened by the other non-colour pages. If you choose to represent a sexy scene in full-colour, and then the rest of the story in B&W, you might save a little money on ink and paper costs.

    Because people don't normally read BL on the train, the large size will not be an issue because it will mostly be read at home (in bed, with the lights down low, the soft music playing, the towel nearby… :)

    However you decide to publish your book, consider the thoughtfulness of a random, sexy pinup intertwined with the main story, REALLY. In colour, ya gotta have those pinups!

    Do you plan on having your book printed in Canada? I'm not sure if it's still cheaper to print here, but it's worth a look ;) (Most of the major comic books are printed here, and some manga like Viz's Shojo Beat line). Anyways, you should think about advertising in gay newspapers and such. You should even approach magazines, such as Freshman, who advertise artbooks, photography books, and other gay literature.

    Hope to see it in stores soon!!!

    Your first customer up north,

    Oliver

  26. SilapaJarun says:

    @The Yaoi Review

    I’m working on my own yaoi graphic novel and was going to have it published as the standard Japanese yaoi titles are, in the smaller size and reading right to left.

    I don't see how reading right to left matters if the original work was written in English. If the work was originally formatted in Japanese and altering it would deviate from the artist/writer's original vision then I'd like it to retain the right to left feel. Otherwise adopting right to left for a work originally in English is a bit like masquerading the work unnecessarily. Simply, as a *reader I don't care but you as the creator are free to do as you please.

    I was also going to work under a pen name that didn’t immediately give away that this was a Western produced novel. My concern is that if I didn’t, it would limit my audience because people may not give it a change if they know it is not from Japan.

    *** I don't agree with this at all. There is enough negative bias towards OEL and to have a western creator put up an act is going to be annoying to the audience and to the creator. Just be proud of your work and be yourself.
    If you want a Japanese pen name then I hope when people send you a fan email asking about Japan—you are ready to answer them or simply drop the act and admit "I was scared no one would give me a chance so I'm playing Japanese for the sake of my publication".

    Am I being overly paranoid?

    *** Yes.

    I find I look at Western yaoi differently myself but usually only because the look and feel is different from what I am used to anyway and enjoy.

    *** Every work is unique. That's the point of creating. I find that the handicap in western yaoi is because it is purposefully trying to mimic trends set in Japan or Korea (due to marketing pressures understandably). I think Western bl can break new ground and redefine the genre by being *different. At the same time Western yaoi is suffering from low quality art. Some works look sloppily drawn/toned and try very hard to copy styles of Japanese artists which is unnecessary.

    I would like to hear what other yaoi fans have to say regarding Western produced yaoi.

    *** Western produced yaoi should stop getting hung up on playing inside the predefined yaoi template (and exactly what are the rules of yaoi?). Write good stories, produce good art and don't market low quality work and assume yaoi readers will buy "anything".

    Yaoi is more than just manga read right to left or the same old uke/seme template. The stories can be more rich and engaging if the creator has the means (I know you guys have limits on pages etc).

    Anyways ~ good luck.

  27. Thanks. I personally like the traditional Japanese format which is why I would choose to keep it that way. Where I may differ is more in the look of the characters and their roles. I don't know that I will stick to a traditional seme/uke role nor do I feel that one of my characters HAS to look like a young boy. I prefer manly characters where switching up isn't an issue. Also, as far as a pen name is concerned, as I stated above I wanted something more androgynous. I never said I was going to use a Japanese pen name to try and deceive my readers. I simply did not want to start from a disadvantage by having readers see a very plain American name and think it must not be a good novel. As you said yourself, there is already a negative bias.

  28. @The Yaoi Review

    The short answer? You should make the yaoi book that will give you the most satisfaction — IMHO, this is the only way to have a chance at making quality art (and the hard truth is, the only person we can be absolutely sure will read our work is ourselves, so might as well make it a good time. ;-) )

    That said, I think Tina (gynocrat) makes some excellent points about not coming off as misleading or coy. If you are designing your pages for a left-to-right read because you love that aesthetic, then have at it. But if it is meant to obscure the fact that it is a "Western produced novel" then it could very well backfire — and frankly, at this point, with so much yaoi available and a strong market for gay literature in general here in the U.S., I don't believe that it would buy you all that much. (And considering the positive response I've received for my own efforts, I certainly don't consider a plain American name to be a liability. ;-) )

    Also, for what it's worth, if you are considering being published by a third-party Yaoi publisher, you should check with a few of the ones you'd like to work with about what formats they accept — before you get locked into a format. Because this whole right-to-left format with Original English Manga is a bit politically charged with the fans, some publishers might have specific thoughts or restrictions on it. You should definitely take a look at this survey/post for some very strong opinions on this. As a creator, I think it would be a good idea to get a feel for what the general temperature is on this issue.

    As yaoi become more known and popular, I personally believe it's going to matter less-and-less where it comes from. What will matter is quality. Make a great, sexy compelling book and people will read it. If it has a Japanese yaoi aesthetic, then all but the most dogmatic traditional yaoi fans will find it appealing.

    It sounds like your primary motivations are aesthetic. Follow those instincts. But I wouldn't worry so much about being stigmatized for being a Western creator of manga-style comics. I really do think that it will soon be a non-issue, at least here in the U.S..

    What matters is the quality of the work. Keep your attention there and you'll be fine. :-)

    Good luck!

  29. gynocrat says:

    @The Yaoi Review

    I simply did not want to start from a disadvantage by having readers see a very plain American name and think it must not be a good novel.

    Ouch? Who the heck does that? With the current NA fandom, Japanese Yaoi comes from established mangaka that fans are aware of– there's no real newcomers to discover. As for GloBL, a majority of what's out there and successful right now are from mangaka from Spain or Italy – with studio names rather than 'a plain American name'. I think fans judge not by the author, but by the art style. If you've got art that captures that Japanese aesthetic, fans of Japanese BL will drop the bias long enough to consider the story and who wrote it. :) They seem to have no problem copping to liking certain styles–and they tend to prefer the authentic Japanese aesthetic over the more Western GloBL. The sad thing is, there really is no set GloBL style – most GloBL creators have their own form of art style, it's not as easy to pin down–nonetheless, if it doesn't look like the work from Japan, most fans of the Japanese BL aren't interested in supporting it.

  30. Originally Posted By artdjmaster@Alex, I think you should go ahead and publish Yaoi Firsts any way you want it. If you publish it in the large format, you should absolutely include those sexy, full-colour pinups! *drool*

    Pin-ups, huh? You mean like a centerfold? I have a few sexy double-page spreads (one of which Yaoi 911™ News and Downloads subscribers get to see the pencils for in the Artifice Previews download.) But I haven't considered adding actual centerfold-type art. Hmmm….

    On the other hand, you might be paying a pretty penny for those large, colour pages.

    Oh, yes. I will. About four times as much than if the book was printed in black-and-white. But, as I said, I'm making the book I've always wanted to read and that involves supersized color art on premium glossy paper. Hopefully, other fans will find that appealing too. ;-)

    Because people don't normally read BL on the train, the large size will not be an issue because it will mostly be read at home (in bed, with the lights down low, the soft music playing, the towel nearby… :)

    LOL!

    Do you plan on having your book printed in Canada? … (Most of the major comic books are printed here, and some manga like Viz's Shojo Beat line)

    It's true that some of the best comics printing in North America is done in Montreal at Quebecor. That said, North American color printing is far too expensive for an independent publisher like myself. I will be printing overseas in Hong Kong where the printing prices are more affordable. The quality is actually just as good — which is important because I am looking to create a premium comic. The drawback is time — you have to wait a few months for the books to be shipped back via boat. And, of course, because of the language differences, you have to be very clear and very prepared when you send your materials to be printed. I am working hard to be both. And I'm happy to wait a bit, so long as the finished product is excellent. ;-)

    Anyways, you should think about advertising in gay newspapers and such. You should even approach magazines, such as Freshman, who advertise artbooks, photography books, and other gay literature.

    Absolutely. While I am definitely writing with female fans in mind, I am also writing for my fellow gay men. It is my hope that gay publications and readers will find our work appealing and that we'll be able to generate a bit of buzz — and hopefully happy customers.

    Hope to see it in stores soon!!!

    Thanks! Things are coming along well with our stories. The pencils for Chapter One: "Tough" are about a third of the way done and I'll be posting some of them up here by the end of the month. And I've been hard at work building our Online Store — it should be ready for public view by the New Year.

    Thanks very much for your encouragement and support, Oliver. It is very much appreciated. :-D

    Alex

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